In the matchup that everyone had been waiting for, the defending champion Las Vegas Aces came out strong and started off the 2023 WNBA Finals with a 99-82 victory over the New York Liberty in Game 1. Many are anticipating the Aces to come away with the title in a competitive series between the league’s best teams.
Going into Game 2 (9 p.m. ET; ESPN) with the home court advantage, the Aces have all the pieces needed to come away with another convincing victory. But they have to approach it as a must-win—as if THIS is the deciding game of the series.
If Vegas is victorious, their chances of repeating as champions only increases as New York will be on their heels. If the Aces lose, then the momentum switches back to the Liberty, with the series moving to Brooklyn for two games.
In other words, it is make or break time.
The Vegas stars must shine again
The Aces will need to utilize their experienced star power over their opponents’ equally-talented, but less experienced, star power.
In Game 1, the trifecta of A’ja Wilson, Kelsey Plum and Jackie Young was terrific. Wilson scored 19 points, grabbed eight rebounds, and notched three blocks. Plum dropped 26 points and had five rebounds of her own. Young came away with 26 points, five rebounds, four assists, and three steals.
But arguably, the biggest contributor was Chelsea Gray.
What a play by Jackie Young and Chelsea Gray pic.twitter.com/yQkDTleABm— Dime (@DimeUPROXX) October 8, 2023
She was the ultimate playmaker—a jack of all trades and master of them all. She had 20 points, dished out nine assists, and grabbed six rebounds. Gray has been cast as the x-factor for the Aces since joining the team as a free agent in 2021. Since she broke out after last season’s All-Star break, her excellence has not wavered, highlighted by her numerous clutch moments last postseason. If she and Plum can repeat their spectacular Game 1 performances, the Liberty will be in a difficult spot defensively, even though they had the second-best defense in the league during the regular season.
Defense wins championships
The Aces had the best defense in the league, and used it to contain the Liberty’s high-tempo offense, even with stellar performances by Marine Johannès, Breanna Stewart and Jonquel Jones in Game 1. Vegas held Sabrina Ionescu to seven points, while keeping Betnijah Laney below her season scoring average of 12.8 points per game.
To maintain control of the series, the Aces again need peak performances from their top players on both ends of the floor. By winning the first two games on their home court, they will begin to ease their way down the road to a repeat.
No. 2 seed New York Liberty (0-1) vs. No. 1 seed Las Vegas Aces (1-0)
When: Wednesday, Oct. 11 at 9 p.m. ET
Where: Michelob ULTRA Arena in Las Vegas, NV
How to watch: ESPN
Aces injury report: Candace Parker (out; foot)